Thursday, December 13, 2012

Comic Book Flashback: Woodsy Owl (1973)

Woodsy and the gang lend a hand to protect the land in Woodsy Owl #2 (1973).
Completely on a lark, I recently purchased some wa-a-a-ay back issues of a children's comic book I vaguely recalled from my very childhood, though I don't recall ever actually having read them. Woodsy Owl was a staple of Saturday morning children's television programming when I was a youngster. During the 1970's, there were few options for television programming, so Saturday morning's the place to be was (in my house anyway) on the floor in front of the televising watching whatever fabulous new Hannah-Barbara shows were being premiered.

Cover to issue #8 (1973).
Filling in the gaps along with commercials were public service announcements starring Woodsy. Woodsy's association with children's TV, as well as his popularity as a tool for anti-pollution eventually resulted in him having his own comic book published.

A few days ago I received a box from online retailer which included five issues of the Gold Key/Western Publishing series, Woodsy Owl. The entire series consisted of ten issues in  all released from 1973-1975. None of the issues I bought were in anywhere near "Fine" condition, but that was not why I purchased them in the first place. It is just kind of neat to have in my hands something that was released when I was four years-old, hand wanted, and am only now reading some forty years later.

Each issue tells the story of Woodsy and his friends (Loose Moose, Dinah Duck, Robby Raccoon, musical group The Auntie Polluters, and Bitsy among others) battling all types of pollution as well as presenting (a in a childlike manner) the impact of pollution on the environment. Perhaps foreshadowing the modern day comic book approach of having each cover be more of a pin-u than a refection of the book's contents, each cover of Woodsy Owl is a PSA all it's own asking the reader to "Give a Hoot!"

From Woodsy Owl #6: our hero convinces his friend to cross-dress so he can
have more time for his radio broadcasting career (seriously)!
Though only slightly anachronistic, Woodsy Owl remains an entertaining read all these years later. In some ways, I continue to believe that writing a quality all-ages title is much more challenging than a "dark" modern-superhero one, much in the same way I find the use of profanity in creative writing to often be a cheat. This challenge of entertaining on numerous levels is something that each issue of Woodsy Owl does well, even by today's (likely less discerning) entertainment standards.

Unfortunately, Woodsy Owl has never been collected into a trade paperback, but it is however available for purchase either online or in some longer-lived shops, at a reasonable price. The price is reasonable, that is, as long as it is an "entertainment" investment," rather than a speculative, financial one. I, for one, believe that's what comic book purchases should be anyway.

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